Yule log

Yule log

Low afternoon sunlight bathes the end of a log — a tree brought low by the ice storm of ’05 and cut to clear the trail. Walking with others, I have time only for one quick snap in passing. What attracts my eye? The red, the green, the pattern of white lichen. Later, looking at it on the screen, I realize that in its slow smolder of decay it has gathered all the colors of the Christmas season (though our only white so far has shrunk to a small patch of snow on the north side of the spruce grove). And looking at the lichen, I think: teeth. Big back molars, packed tight in an impossibly capacious jaw.

I have too much to chew on this month. Beyond a certain point, the chewed becomes the chewer, setting the gut to permanent churn. At the merest slight we light up like Christmas, but for the wrong reasons. Combustion comes in many forms, and some give off more heat than light. Starved of oxygen, for example, is possible to smolder in such a way that one turns almost entirely to charcoal — no ash for de-icing or the caustic lye, nothing but the fabled anti-gift, a stocking stuffer from Krampus.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. Such gorgeous colors and detail. Also love that you got such a great result from just “one quick snap”. Makes it even more extraordinary.


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